Sunday, February 08, 2015

epic love stories

Wow, somehow it became February. Thank the gods I don't have to post about food anymore. I'm going to post about love instead.  And chocolate. (Contest below!)

What's everyone doing for Valentine's Day? I'm thinking of pulling the trigger on one of those fancy prix fixe reservations at a swanky restaurant for me and my guy - because, how often is VD on a Saturday? (Actually, duh, we know the answer to that  - give or take a leap year.)

So, aside from the possible foie gras torchon and bon bon-popping, I'll spend part of the day as usual: hammering away at the keyboard, and living in the dream of my novel-in-progress (which is, for now, Empress Chronicles II).

The air is certainly thick with love in February, and it's making me a tad sentimental. For a while, maybe five, six years ago, I had this tagline emblazoned on my website. Do you remember it?

Somehow it disappeared or got rolled over by the Mac truck of updates, quickly and unaesthetically rendered in favor of "call to action" - you know, the whole "buy, buy, buy" thing.

Well, I'm here to say, I stand by that statement, the love story one, and I'm hoping to swim my way back to it in 2015. I want to embark on a journey of love. The epic saga of heartbreak and humanity.

I have a good start. For one, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond recently called me up to opine on one of their Dear Sugar Radio topics. The theme was "deal breakers" and the particular advice-seeking letter involved the dilemma of "alive boyfriend jealous of dead one." Give it a listen, let me know what you think.

The invitation to chat with the Sugars made me think about my very favorite love stories. Lately, I've been on this Liane Moriarty kick. I love all of her books. They're funny, true, and accessible. But in another chamber of my heart dwells the "epic saga" type love story, and I'm sort of ashamed to admit, my top three of this sort are all written by men:

McEwan's Atonement, Stegner's Angle of Repose, and Spanbauer's I Loved You More. That's the answer for the "if you were deserted on a desert island with only three books" question. Yikes! Do I have to revoke my vagina? I hope not. I mean, I also love, love, love other ones written by women. Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, for instance. And J. Courtney Sullivan's, Maine.

In the car yesterday with my buddy Teri Carter, driving back to the airport from our week long writing retreat in the desert, we revisited a conversation we'd had the night before. There'd been this question posed: "If you suddenly were given the chops to write an amazing example of any type of book, what territory would you conquer?" I'd dashed off the idea of a Lorrie Moore type smart, literary short story collection, but on deeper thought, in the car, I amended my answer to: the ultimate epic love saga.

When I think about lasting impact and the sort of story that moves through my bones and settles in my heart for the long haul, stories of love and loss that don't tie up in the romance trope of "happily ever after," are sacred to me. I just finished writing a book that, I think (I hope!) conveys an alternative to the typical girl-gets-boy ending, but my appetite is whetted for more. More!

As Tom Spanbauer recently said in an interview, "I have to have a dream. I have to have a dream, and for me the dream is the next book, and if I don't have that dream it just turns into ordinary drudgery."

I feel that too, do you? What are your favorite epic tales of love? Share yours in a comment below, and on February 14th I'll randomly pick a winner, and send you a box of bon-bons from Alma Chocolate!


  1. Anonymous11:54 AM

    Love in the Time of Cholera is right up there at the top of my love story list, even though it's been years since I've read it. More recently, Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries is many things, but it's a love story at heart. And it's definitely an epic. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is about three generations of women whose loves lead them in unexpected directions.

    1. Ooooh! the Luminaries and Strange and Beautiful Sorrows are now on my list. Thank you!

  2. This from Jennifer Murphy: My two favorite love stories are The Lover by Marguarite Duras and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.

  3. Anonymous7:18 AM

    Suzy, you were terrific on Dear Sugar. You told your story, and most importantly beautifully explained how your deceased husband, over years, became part of who you are. Love that.

    Angle of Repose is one of those favorite books I'm saving to read again. I'm also saving Lonesome Dove for a re-read. If I think about all of the love stories out there, the one that breaks my heart open every time is Brokeback Mountain. Not necessarily the movie, though the movie is gorgeous (and oh man that last scene with the shirts in the closet) but more the short story by Annie Proulx --- I have read it over and over again.

    1. Thanks, Teri. So nice to hear that.

      Brokeback Mountain. Yes!!!

  4. And the winner is .... Jennifer Murphy!!!!
    Yay! Thanks you guys!


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